Drugmaker Celgene Corp. agreed to invest an additional $30 million in a cancer-fighting start-up that’s majority owned by Los Angeles biotech entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the companies said Friday.
Celgene’s second-round funding would raise its overall investment in NantCell to $105 million, lifting its ownership in the firm to 2.8% and giving NantCell a total valuation of $4 billion, the companies said.
The announcement came one day after Celgene itself agreed to be acquired by another major drug company, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., for $74 billion. Celgene, based in Summit, N.J., produces drugs such as the blood-cancer therapy Revlimid.
Privately held NantCell is part of Soon-Shiong’s Culver City-based network of firms, called NantWorks, which is attempting to develop cancer treatments using the body’s own immune system.
The network’s other two main entities, which are publicly held, are NantHealth Inc. and NantKwest Inc. Soon-Shiong also owns the Los Angeles Times.
Soon-Shiong started NantCell in 2015 with the help of Celgene’s initial $75-million investment. The company is trying to develop a vaccine to combat multiple types of tumors without requiring the patient to undergo high-dose chemotherapy.
“We are very pleased with Celgene’s continued investment in the company and our shared vision of developing a chemotherapy free cancer vaccine,” Soon-Shiong said in a statement.
Mark Alles, Celgene’s chief executive, said in a statement that NantCell had made “significant clinical progress” and that “we are excited to extend this partnership.”